I’m enjoying the changes
It hit me this morning that my baby is almost 2 months old. While reflecting on the fact that it’s been almost that long since I’ve posted, I was thinking about all the new information I’ve found and all the changes we’ve made in our daily lives in addition to just adding a new family member. I can’t take any of the credit for most of the research I’ve used to make the changes, and there’s no way I’m going in depth (mostly due to the fact that I have an 8 week old!), but this is the wonderful mommy blogger that I follow and love her info: http://www.modernalternativemama.com/ She’s got great info on all things natural, and she’s a fellow believer!
Okay, the obvious change, having a new baby. If you read my post on my birth experience, you’ll know that it was everything I wanted and more. I keep finding new info on childbirth that keeps reaffirming the decision we made to go natural, but we also found a financial reason to try for going even more natural, i.e. home birth, next time. Our all natural, only in the hospital 40 hours from check-in to check-out, cost almost $20,000, which is what our c-sections cost 4 and 6 years ago! My how medical costs have skyrocketed! I understand the $1,500 for the room, but $8,000 for L&D when my doula and I did all the work, and she was free! Seriously, while I love my OB and my nurse was great and followed what I wanted, is forcing me into bed every hour for 15 minutes and then 15 minutes of pushing and an hour of the clean-up afterward really worth $8000? Then add in the $5 ibuprofens, the $700 for the saline-lock (IV hookup) that was un-needed, $2000 for the care of my baby who never even went into the nursery, the $4000 for prenatal care (that was totally great, but still), and all the other ways they nickel and dime you… In all my research for this, I was totally unprepared for the cost. In 2007, the average natural birth in a hospital was $4000…I was prepared and had saved for my out of pocket costs for around $6,000, but I was totally not ready for $18,000 and probably still more coming?!? Any more kids will be planned at home where you can have everything from prenatal to post-natal care with all the clean-up, supplies, and 2 midwives for between $4,000-$6,000. And then if I still want to add a doula that may be another $500-$1000. And, many insurance companies reimburse most of it (as long as your MW knows how to code it) so I could get 60% of it back being out of network and still be ahead of what I will end up paying. And be in the comfort of my home, without being asked for things I don’t want, eating what I want, with the people I want, not pushed into bed when that was the last place I wanted to be!!!
Okay, rant over. This little guy has been wonderful, so much easier than the previous two. Part of this is that I’m a lot more laid back. No worries about schedules (especially since I’m not working this time), no worries about needing all these gadgets that I didn’t even use last time, no 23 month old terrorizing the house while I’m trying to nurse, etc.
Changes in Baby Parenting Style
I’ve become a huge fan of Attachment Parenting. While I implemented a lot of the ideas of it with my other two without realizing it, it is based in so much common sense. I’ve adopted the concept that we’re in our 4th trimester. He is used to having all his needs met immediately and being attached to me. So, until last week fully and now partially, we are bed sharing.
Yes, this can be done safely and mom can sleep soundly! I tried it with my oldest when he was a baby. I had him sleeping between my husband and I and I never slept because I was so worried about one of us rolling onto him. With my second, I had her in our room, but since she never fell into that deep sleep of a bed-sharer I rolled her basinet out of our room at night.
But I looked up safe bed-sharing and rigged up our bed to do this safely. Since we don’t have a king-size bed and with a tiny house I needed the under-bed storage that putting our mattress directly on the floor I had to make sure that he couldn’t roll off no matter how hard he tried. They have some wonderful co-sleeper beds that can either attach to your bed on the outside, or a basinet style that actually has short rigid walls that prevent rolling, but again, a tiny house and no king-size bed. So what I did was attach a bed-rail on my side and roll up a baby quilt in the crack, and put him to sleep right on the edge with a travel pillow between us. If I’m nursing him on the side that faces my husband, I go right up against the rail and put the pillow between him and my husband. No worries of him getting squished or hurt so I sleep, and he gets into our breathing rhythm and sleeps deeply.
At 8 weeks old he’s already slept the definition of sleeping thru the night (5 hrs) about 20 times. We’ve now switched to the first round of sleeping in his bed (in our room) for over a week, and except for one time he’s slept at least 5 hours, and once from 11pm to 7am! I attribute most of this to him always being close, but I also think that never putting him in the hospital nursery with the bright lights and poking started him out with a good natural sleep rhythm.
Another part of my 4th trimester is feeding him on demand. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I can’t get over how I used to stress over frequency, stretching him out between feedings because it had only been an hour, freaking out because it had been 4, not knowing if he’d had enough, etc. This guy is already close to 15 lbs and is in the 90th percentile…I think his tummy knows when it needs to eat and how much!
His favorite part of the 4th trimester is the baby wearing. Right now I’m using a ring sling, but with his increasing weight I think I’ll be switching to a moby wrap or an ergo. While he’s slowly getting used to napping in his or our bed, his favorite place to fall asleep is securely held in the carrier with his head resting on my chest listening to my heart. And no wonder, that was a sound he always heard for 9 months. He likes the swaying when I walk, the comfort of my warmth. For over a month he’s been falling asleep for my husband and will occasionally fall asleep in the swing, but it’s comforting to sleep in the way you’re used to. Now it does stink that often he won’t stay asleep when I lay him down, but I can’t fall asleep when I’m in a strange place either! I’ve always been a believer that bedtime is dark and quiet and nap-time is normal light and noise to not disturb the natural rhythm, but I’ve figured out that if I do need the break or he really needs a good nap, all I have to do is turn out the lights.
The last part is a deeply personal decision and should look different for each family depending on your research, what risks you’re willing to take, and whether your kids are in daycare. I have decided to not vaccinate. The bloodborne and STD vaccines for infants and young children were a no-brainer. After researching the actual illnesses and the side-effects of the rest of the vaccines, I decided I liked the worst-case scenario risk percentages better for the illnesses than the vaccines, especially since I’m nursing and we live a low-risk lifestyle. Now, if we ever have an outbreak of a major disease where there’s a vaccine (and sorry, this pertussis scare they’ve been touting does not fit the CDC’s definition of an outbreak and 93% of the kids contracting it are vaccinated against it) I may change my mind case by case. I’d rather my kids have a naturally strong immune system and be able to fight it off and have real immunity than rely on vaccines that require boosters every 5-10 years to be effective.
Family Level Changes
We’ve added a lot of changes in the amount of chemicals we allow in our home. I know that pesticides, chemicals, and other additives are inevitable and basically unavoidable outside our home, but I’m helping our bodies be able to handle it by trying to turn our home as natural as possible (in small steps). While we’ve been eating mostly natural foods for awhile (see my weight-loss post), I’m now switching to more organic, pesticide/antibiotic/hormone-free products.
For awhile I’ve been making our own laundry detergent. My recipe is as simple as boiling a few cups of water in a large pan, grating 1/3 a bar of Fels-Naptha laundry soap into it as it’s heating, and adding 1/2 a cup each Borax and washing soda. After it’s all melted and mixed, I pour half into 2 old laundry detergent jugs and fill with water. I shake each up for a minute and I’m done. If you need more detailed directions or want to find other homemade cleaners, go to: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap.htm I do laundry like normal and use half a cup of detergent (make sure to shake a little before each use). I use this for heavy stains (I may use a little extra pre-treat with the laundry soap bar), baby clothes, cloth diapers, everything! With there being no additives I have no static cling so I don’t need fabric softener. And, my cost is around $40 A YEAR!!! If there’s stains remaining after washing (especially baby stains like spit-up or the cloth diapers), I hang them to dry in the sun to naturally bleach!
While I’m currently using up the cleaners I already own, I’m switching to buying 1 or 2 natural cleaners. But for most cleaning I’ll just use vinegar and baking soda. For ease of use, keep the baking soda in an empty parmesan cheese container to shake it out, and then use a cloth with vinegar on it to wipe up. For set in stains, pour a little vinegar on the baking soda and let sit for a few minutes and wipe up. I use vinegar for the rinse aid in my dishwasher, it works great as a fabric softener in the wash if you still get a little static cling, and in these uses you don’t smell any vinegar at all…getting used to smelling it a bit after cleaning. Lemon juice and salt are 2 other things you can use for cleaning too, and it smells great! I’ll be googling all kinds of uses for these as cleaners…I love the internet! I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be using for glass, but I’m leaning towards taking a spray bottle, adding a little dawn dish detergent, a little rubbing alcohol to help with evaporation/streaking, and filling with water.
One awesome discovery is that natural, chemical free home pesticides actually work! We started using EcoSmart ant and roach spray and it’s worked great. I think the main reason is that it uses essential oils, so they don’t evaporate and the ants won’t cross it, even weeks later. Plus, my house smells like winter fresh gum instead of bugspray when I use it. And I feel safe using it in my kitchen where it’s needed and with the kids and all the pets. The outdoor body spray works fairly well too and it’s DEET free.
While I think buying things at the store that are labelled “organic” is mostly a scam, there are lots of things you can do that not only cost the same or less and often help your local economy. The easy one for us, though possibly not an option for everyone due to availability, is making most of our purchases at Aldi. Their costs are about 40% cheaper than other stores, so that frees up more money. Their milk and eggs are also antibiotic and hormone free! Their seasonal produce is awesome (though not organic, so if this is something important to you, but I can’t pass up $1 pints of strawberries!), their store-brand products taste great and are mostly HFCS and hydrogenated oil free, and they have a great frozen section. Yes, they rarely carry brand-name products (but who cares to pay more for the same thing?), and I try to stay away from their “fresh” meat products…they never have a deli/butcher nearby, it’s all shipped in. Their paper products are great too. I’ve been fully satisfied using their toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissues.
I’ve been using these savings to splurge in other areas. I always buy my deli meat fresh from the deli counter at the chain grocery store. I also buy the products that aren’t available there when there’s a sale ($10 off a $50 purchase days at Shop N Save!), like some produce items, my K-cups and creamer, higher quality pet food, etc.
And the big splurge we’ve just started but I feel great about is shopping at the local farmer’s market. There’s one a few blocks from my house that just started up 3 years ago and is finally having some great stands. My favorite is NAGL Farm Products, a farmer that drives an hour every week to the Overland Farmers Market. All his animals are free-ranged, hormone and antibiotic free, and well cared for. If you’re in the STL area, he can be contacted at email@example.com. The eggs are $3/dozen, and they taste amazing! I’ve always been one that had to put cheese in scrambled eggs, but these don’t need it. Since his chickens are soaking in all kinds of extra vitamins by being out in the sun and eating grass and bugs, they pass it on to their eggs as you can tell by the better flavor and the darker colored yolks. His beef prices are very reasonable too, especially if you factor in that you can have an amazing dinner for so much cheaper than eating out and it tastes better too. I buy his stew meat at $5/lb and it is the best stuff I’ve ever eaten! The way I see it, I’m buying a superior product than even most fancy restaurants use and I’m also supporting a local business/family. It’s a win-win.
I’m still careful about the produce I buy at the market because by looking I can tell that not all of it is in season, so it makes me doubt that it’s really locally grown, but if I can verify that it’s pesticide free and the price is reasonable, I’m all for it! It’s also awesome to buy local honey (it helps allergies!), and I know it’s real…much of what you buy at the store is from China and has lots of additives that they don’t label. Plus, the different colors of the honey based on what flowers the bees went to is so fun. Seeing the locally made items, and occasionally buying locally made products like salsa or bakery items is fun and tastes great too!
I’m also working on growing as much of my own produce as possible. My favorite book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading”. The book has tips on every aspect of growing your own food in an urban environment (plant and animal!), making soaps, reusing, composting, reducing energy consumption, etc. And my favorite website is: http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/ It is great for how to start a container garden and just general tips on maximizing small space to be more self-sufficient.
My goal for this year is to grow enough herbs to use fresh now and to dry and use all winter. I’m growing parsley, basil, mint and stevia (a natural, calorie-free sweetener). I should get enough potatoes (baking, red and yellow) to last me through to Christmas, and plenty of tomatoes to can for pasta sauce and to make salsa with my peppers and onions. I’ve been enjoying fresh lettuce for salads, my cucumbers that are ripening, and the strawberries that are better than anything I’ve ever tasted. Another year or two and I should have an 8x8ft bed the way they’re spreading. I can’t wait for my raspberries to start producing, my new blackberry bush has 5-6 berries that are almost ripe, and I’ll have plenty of onions. But I’m a little disappointed with my broccoli. Not sure if was the variety or if I just let it go too long, but it was a little bitter. And my red clover seeds never grew…but I contacted the seller and they’re sending me some new ones!
Next year I’m planning to add a bed at the local community garden (I don’t want to infringe on my yard any further and I’ve already maxed out the sunny parts anyway) and planting corn and peas indian style. I’ve done all this in 2 8x8ft raised beds surrounded by wire fencing and about a dozen containers. The perks of this is not having to waste space, being able to grow and trellis climbers along the edge, and keeping the critters out. It’s pretty impossible to eliminate the squirrels from accessing (I have a trick I won’t share here because it’s a “permanent” method), but the bunnies don’t have a chance and I can deter the birds with hanging old CDs and pie tins and a fake owl statue. I’m planning on making a scarecrow, but that’s mostly because it will look awesome.
Oh, and speaking of looking awesome, my wonderful husband built us a wonderful deck on the back of the house during his paternity leave. It is now one of my favorite places and it gives us more space to entertain. Thank you honey!
I still plan on having my son attend 1st grade at the local public school. While I love the school and the teachers, I’ve been convicted about the natural indoctrination of the school environment. As a fervent believer in a literal understanding of the Bible including a 6 – 24hr day creation and a global flood, the topic of evolution is one that is not compatible. With the sneaky “millions of years” and “ancestor” concepts in most animal and science books, I don’t feel comfortable with my youngsters being introduced to this without my supervision.
While I think at an older age when my kids can understand this and deal with it on their own, I don’t think my elementary aged children should be exposed to this. So starting next year, unless a miraculous pay increase happens and we can afford private school, I will pull my son out and fully homeschool all my kids again. And if we have younger school-aged foster kids, I hope to teach them as well. Yes, I may have a lot on my plate, but thank God for a wonderful local support group, lots of fun activities at the library, and for the free museums and zoo here in STL. Between all these activities and our church, socialization is definitely not a worry. The only worry is me trying to fit in everything I want to do and getting the required “school” work done…it can’t all be field trips! Oh yeah, and my sanity.
And, I need to get back into the swing of cooking more meals at home. I really want to start meal-planning, but that requires planning ahead… I also want to start baking our bread again. I loved doing it, but between being pregnant (and the nausea and subsequent hugeness) and then the having a newborn, I haven’t baked in a year now.
I also want to purge much of what we have in our house. In the last few weeks we’ve cleaned and organized most of the house. Now to finish that chore, figure out what we should get rid of (it should really be at least 33% of what we have!) and plan a garage sale. My house is 950 sq/ft main level with a mostly finished basement. I have 3 biological kids and occasionally have a foster child…you can imagine the need to purge! I love my house, so I need to make it work! I’m really trying to talk my husband into the idea of expanding up and adding another bedroom or two and the needed 2nd bathroom. It’s actually very possible with the type of house we have and is probably more cost effective than paying for a larger house and the actual moving to and decorating a new space. Plus, we’ve done so much here with the new deck, windows, roof, finishing the basement, etc.
I also desperately want to add a flock of chickens. I could always do it now by breaking to local ordinance like many already do (and be super sneaky about it and have my husband build a privacy fancy), but I’m honest and am working on getting the ordinance changed. I’ve already contacted my councilmen and am building a grassroots group to help me get it done. I want 2-3 hens to eat our food leftovers, eat the bugs, teach my kids responsibility, and give me fresh eggs! Plus, it would just add ambience to the space I’ve been turning into my dream yard over the last few years. Who needs a huge yard, you can do it in the 0.14 acres I’ve got. All I need to get there is for a few more trees to be cut down and my flock of chickens with their coop!
What Hasn’t Changed
While I’m getting there, I still don’t read my Bible as much as I would like. I’ve been going to some great studies and classes, but I really need to get into the habit of reading it on my own. I keep using the excuse of things to do, 3 kids, tons of pets, etc. But if I’m honest with myself I have no excuse, especially since I have hours every day where I’m sitting and nursing and could easily have my Bible open instead of sitting at the computer or watching TV.
I also still let my kids watch too much TV. With it being summer we’re going places almost daily, but I still like some free time to watch my own show or work on the computer. I also like to take a daily nap with my baby and I have a lot of time when I’m stuck taking care of him. But I should totally plan things for them to do like crafts, coloring and reading.
And, I totally need to exercise more. I love being active. I miss the 15 miles a week I was jogging a year ago. I love going to exercise classes, doing a video, or going up to the school playground and letting my kids play while I walk the track with the stroller and do some general exercise on the playground equipment. But, it’s the actual getting out of bed in the morning, or going out once my husband is home. Or even worse, trying to find someone to exercise with or paying for a class. And now, add in the horrible humidity and heat. And the needy newborn who relies on me for everything. But I’ll get there again. I don’t want to get back to where I was a year and a half ago. I’m 40 lbs lighter, and while my diet is much better and I’m mostly maintaining, I still have 20 more I’d love to lose.
Well, I think that’s it. We’ll see if I can post fairly regularly and keep future posts from turning into books!